The T20 World Cup is just 10 months away and it will be back after a gap of four and a half years. The last time the tournament was played in March 2016 in India. This time, Australia are the host and the build-up has already started with most teams playing a lot more T20 cricket.
India have been on the road as far as T20s are concerned. They played three T20I series at home to end 2019 and have started 2020 with a three-match T20I series against Sri Lanka. The fast bowlers have done a fabulous job and have been one of the reasons for India’s success. In fact, despite constant injury woes, there have been bowlers who’ve stepped up and grabbed their opportunities.
Thus, after the second T20I against Sri Lanka, when skipper Virat Kohli was asked about the pecking order, he said, “I think one guy will be a surprise package going to Australia, someone who can bowl with pace and has bounce.” India are spoilt for choice and have quite a few pacers who’ve done well. There are a couple of fast bowlers who are doing well in the domestic circuit and the IPL as well.
Hence, here we pick five pacers who can be Virat Kohli’s surprise package that he was talking about in the T20 World Cup later this year:
1. Navdeep Saini
Navdeep Saini will be one of the first ones on this list. The Delhi lad has the ability to bowl fast and rattle the batsmen with pace. He made his T20I debut in the Caribbean and was impressive. However, a couple of indifferent outings against South Africa at home saw him face the axe.
But Saini went back to domestic cricket and performed really well. He picked up 10 wickets from six games in the Vijay Hazare Trophy. He returned to the Indian side at the expense of Deepak Chahar who was ruled out due to a back injury. Since then, Saini has shown that he has improved and worked on his bowling.
The 27-year-old pacer has been consistent and has bowled with a lot of fire. Saini took 2/58 on his ODI debut against West Indies and he has returned with five wickets from two games against Sri Lanka. He’s bowled some excellent yorkers and has got wickets as well with those. Saini also has a sharp bouncer. Hence, he could well be the man Kohli is looking for. Moreover, the pitches in Australia will help him get some decent bounce as well.
2. Prasidh Krishna
In that post-match presentation where Virat Kohli spoke about the ‘surprise package’, he mentioned one name and that was Prasidh Krishna. “Prasidh Krishna has done well in the domestic arena as well,” the Indian captain had said. The Karnataka fast bowler has been impressive over the few years.
Krishna has played a couple of seasons in the IPL. While he tends to be expensive, he can pick wickets. He took 10 wickets from seven games in the 2018 season but was disappointing in 2019. However, Krishna has put a disappointing IPL season behind him and has started afresh. He picked up eight wickets and had an excellent economy of 6.07 in the Karnataka Premier League (KPL). He then took 17 wickets in the Vijay Hazare Trophy at an average of 13.41 and was striking once every 20 deliveries.
Moreover, what was impressive was the pace with which he bowled. The Karnataka lad steams in and hits the deck hard. Hence, with Kohli mentioning out Krishna in particular, he could be well in line for an India debut in the near future and is certainly in the picture for the T20 World Cup.
3. Shardul Thakur
For quite some time now, Shardul Thakur has been reduced to an injury replacement. In fact, he’s also been a regular member in the India ‘A’ squad. Despite doing well in the ‘A’ series’ and also, for Mumbai in domestic cricket, chances have been few and far in between for Thakur.
However, he has played the last five international games for India and has done well. Not only with the ball, but also with the bat. He’s been crucial lower down the order and has played a couple of excellent match-winning cameos. Virat Kohli has been searching for someone who can play such knocks lower down the order.
While Thakur has blown hot and cold in the ODI format, he’s been good in T20 cricket. The Mumbai pacer can swing the ball and can bowl in and around the 140 kmph mark as well. Hence, given his batting exploits in the recent past, Thakur may well be above in the pecking order.
4. Umesh Yadav
This may be a slightly surprising name in this list but Umesh Yadav can be a surprise pick in the team. He is someone who can bowl at a blistering pace and can swing the new ball as well. In fact, India can use Yadav as a powerplay or a middle overs bowler. He has a tendency of leaking runs at the death. Hence, Kohli could use him upfront and ask him to go all out early on.
Moreover, Yadav has improved over the last couple of years. He had a very good season in the 2018 edition of the IPL as he picked up 20 wickets. At the moment, the Vidarbha pacer isn’t in the scheme of things in white-ball cricket. But with Kohli looking for someone to bowl with pace and bounce, he could well fall back on Yadav.
5. Mohammed Siraj
Mohammed Siraj made his international debut back in November 2017 but has played just four games (three T20Is and one ODI). He’s had a tough time and hasn’t had a great start to his international career. However, he has constantly done well in domestic cricket for both Hyderabad and India ‘A’.
He’s been a part of the Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) side for the last couple of years and has blown hot and cold. However, he’s done well in the white-ball formats in domestic cricket this season. Siraj took 12 wickets in the Vijay Hazare tournament before picking 13 wickets in the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy. In both tournaments, he had good economy rates as well.
Hence, Siraj has the ability to crank up some good pace and can hit the deck hard as well. He has a decent yorker too and can be a surprise pick in the Indian team.
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